Anatomy of Murder

A murder case has many layers: the victim, the crime, and the investigation. To truly understand it, you need to dissect each piece of a tragic puzzle. Join Anna-Sigga Nicolazzi and Scott Weinberger every Wednesday for an insider’s perspective, as they reveal to you the Anatomy of Murder.

Little Girl Turned Sleuth

Little Girl Turned Sleuth

Wed, 14 Oct 2020 07:00

A 4-year-old girl finds her single mom murdered. 46 years later, that same little girl helped catch the killer.

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If you're looking for a new show unlike anything you've ever heard before, check out audio Chuck's latest series killed. Each episode of killed covers a story that you may have never read because it was killed before it got published. I'm Justine Harman, who some of you may know from my show OC swingers, and I'm here to bring these dead stories back to life binge killed right now to get the full story. There was one time we were out. I was probably about 6. We were out and we were going to the store and a lady had stopped us on the street, somebody that my grandma knew. And she says, oh, now, who's this? And my grandma said, Oh well, this is my youngest. This is Heidi. And the lady said, oh, this is the granddaughter whose mother was murdered. I'm Scott Weinberger's, investigative journalist and former deputy sheriff. Blazie former New York City homicide prosecutor and host of Investigation Discovery's true conviction, and this is anatomy of murder. Hey, Anna. Sega. Hey, Scott. How are you? Good. You ready? Yep. Here we are. First episode #1 pretty excited. You know, for years we've traveled the country covering homicide cases, meeting families, and they have told us such really compelling and equally heartbreaking stories. And relaying those stories. I guess that's really become a mission for us, remembering the victims. I think that's what this podcast is really about when I always hear about these cases. In whatever form, I know the things that I'm drawn to. I want to know more about the person, the victim, and then I want to know all the details, the investigation. I know that is because I was a homicide prosecutor, but I'd like to think that others are too, and that this is a way that we can take them really behind the scenes to give them those same answers that we're taking our own experiences and kind of peeling the onion, if you will, to try to explain. The whys you know why something was or wasn't done and give all of you out there that sense of the same things that in our world. The questions we ask, we think you ask too, and we'll hopefully give you those answers. I'm really excited for our listeners to learn about Loretta Jones, a 23 year old young single mother from Utah. The details in the investigation here are compelling and equally tragic. They're in for quite a ride here. Loretta Jones was a young woman. At 23. She was also a mom and her daughter, Heidi. I spoke to her about this case, and she was only four years old when her mom was murdered. So what she can give us about actual memories of her mom? They're somewhat limited, you know, she is old enough to remember, but really it's just a specific memory or two. But she certainly could tell us enough. As soon as she had me, we had our own place. So the house that we lived in, my grandpa had bought it, and so we were just renting from my grandpa. You walked into the front room when you went in the front door. So if you'd go straight, you'd go into my mom's bedroom. There was a big kitchen, and then from the kitchen, you'd go back into my bedroom. I remember very clearly one day in our front room and my mom is ironing clothes and I have my little ironing board and my little fake iron, you know? And I'm ironing alongside of her. That is a memory that I have. Loretta was a 23 year old young single mom. She was taking accounting classes to try to ultimately work in her family's business, but she also did that because it enabled her to spend the rest of the time with her daughter and raising her daughter. So. That's for years where Heidi and Mommy time. He wasn't putting me in daycare. She wasn't passed me on to a a relative to take care of me or something. She loved me more than anything. All she wanted to do was to provide and take care of her little girl. They lived in price, UT, which is a small town in Carbon County. It's a town that if if somebody doesn't know you, they know who you're related to. I've been looking in little into this price county, Utah, and, you know, in 1970, it was a a real conservative community where a single woman raising a child was basically frowned upon. So that must have been a very difficult situation as well. And I can only imagine how tough that was for her. But, you know, when I look at the pictures, like I'm looking in front of me, there's a picture of Loretta and her daughter, and there's something in her face. There's like a strong confidence in her smile. That, you know, if we believe that we get some part of our parents, certainly through our DNA. And what I saw when I spoke to Heidi or heard in her voice, I see it in Loretta, too. She was a woman that, yeah, things had not happened in the traditional sense, but she was powering on and making a really nice life for herself and her daughter. You know, she was slender, she was very good looking, very well kept and there's just love surrounded by her. Their life was pleasant. It was simple, yet beautiful. But then, on one of those warm summer nights, on a Thursday, July 30th, 1970, everything changed. Well, sometime during that night. Loretta was murdered. Heidi was in the house. But either because of her age or because whatever she might have heard was so traumatic she can't tell us anything, completely blocked it out. What she can say is the next morning, which was July 31st, she woke up and found her mom. It pretty much took my brother away. My first memory is that. I don't remember waking up. I don't remember getting out of my bed and walking to the door. What I do remember is I looked through the keyhole from my bedroom door into the front room before I open the door, and when I looked through the keyhole, I saw. Something. Lying on the floor. And at first I think I thought it was laundry. And then I opened the door. And it was my mom's body. I just remembered there was blood everywhere. My mom was laying in a pool of blood. There was blood on the couch, on the floor. So then I went outside. I opened the front door. My neighbor was outside. And he said, Heidi, come here, I have to show you something. And I said I can't. I think my mom is dead. She called the police and then what I remember is I'm sitting in their kitchen waiting for the police and my grandparents. It's just, it's heartbreaking. Loretta was lying face down in the living room, right by the couch and a coffee table. She was naked from the waist down. Her shirt and bra had been pushed up. Her underwear was next to her body, so clearly it looks like there was a sexual assault that occurred and also her underwear had been cut with a sharp object. Despite all of that horrific scene, the house itself was pristine. And in a sense, it did not look like there was a forced entry. It sounds like at least likely that it may just have been someone she knew, or at least that she let into that house voluntarily. When the autopsy was conducted, what they found was. The stuff they write horror books about. She had 17 stab wounds to her back, two to her chest, and her throat had been slit. I mean when I think about that as a prosecutor, without even knowing anything else about the case, that says to me that she was face to face with her attacker, that in some combination that was probably the 1st 2 wounds. And then she turned to try to get away. And that is when whoever did this to her made very sure that she died as to when her throat was slit, whether that was just to make sure. That they finished her off, who knows? But there was nothing quick about this attack, so I I believe that I heard a lot more than I remember. It's the age that is part of the heartbreak, in this case Heidi's age. Can a four year old really in your opinion and Sega process? A death like that, it's just the the whole scenario of her mom no longer being around. I think they can, in a simplistic way. You know, kids are capable of more than a lot of us tend to give them credit for, and while they don't sink into things the way we do or pull them apart. They wake up every day and they go through their day and they know who they love and who they like and who's good and who's bad, at least in their world. And so I think to wake up one day and have her mom, who was not just her mom, but her world gone, I've got to believe and from what I've seen with other children, that she knew enough that this tore her world apart. You know the early present investigation. I remember the police come into the house a lot and I remember them asking questions. Interestingly, one thing she said right from the beginning was that she recognized a man's voice as a voice she had heard before. It's really interesting how it happens. So this little girl said there was this voice that she recognized. And then the investigators go back and look in the blood, and they see that there's letters written, and the letters written are T&O, and they start to go through, well, is it a word? Is it a name? Well, what's the first thing that anyone seeing T&O? What name is going to come right out? Thank you. I was told that I would tell the police over and over. Tom did it. Tom killed my mom. And when they look, sure enough, there was a Tom in Loretta's life. Hi everyone, Ashley Flowers here and I have exciting news to share. My debut novel all good people here is officially out now. Our fans are blowing up our social talking about it. You do not want to be left out and the worst thing that could happen is for someone else to spoil it for you because there are some wild twists in this book. If you love true crime content, mysteries, and a grown up Nancy Drew style detective work then I have a good feeling you won't be able to put this book down. So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy of all good people here now, wherever books are sold. Put your prosecutors hat on for a second and see, because the question I would have is how reliable could a four year old be when it comes to being a potential witness to a brutal case like this? There's no easy answer to that. I mean, all kids are different and they have different capabilities at that age. They can be very reliable or you have to be very suspect, and it's very difficult without knowing the child. I certainly know that when you're deciding whether that child can testify in a courtroom, they do what's called a swear ability test. And basically that is making sure that that child understands the difference between a truth and a lie. And they have to dig into that before judge can decide whether or not that child can take. Stand and testify, but here, even before that, investigators had to see whether this little girl could aid them. Investigation and whatever she said to them. Could they trust it? I know that there was a Tom that was in my mom's diary and they had questioned him. He was a guy that my mom actually had went to high school with. He was a couple years older. She dated him a couple times. But you know, it wasn't a love connection. Even one witness claim he saw Tom in the same area that afternoon. So for investigators, then it was we got to identify this guy. Tom, we need to talk to Tom. But he had a strong alibi. He wasn't in the area. Any of that. While there was more going on in that town the very same night. Because the very night of the murder earlier that evening, a 10 year old little girl was on her bike. And she was heading home when all of a sudden a man came up behind her. He put his hand around her mouth. She began to scream and she actually frightened. Luckily that man so much that he ran off. I think she spit her gum or something into his hand. She was so frightened, and luckily it frightened him too. Well, she wasn't out there on her own. She was also there with her little brother, who said that he remembered seeing a man sitting there eating hamburgers. And so they gave a detailed description of this man, now that. Was only .3 miles away from Loretta's home, but they live just up the street and around the corner from us. So now you have this town when really nothing happens. And now you have these two terrible, terrible, albeit very different crimes on the very same night. So when police start looking into it, they get different tips. They locate the man who sure enough, fits that description, and guess what his first name is. That's when the Tom Egly came into play. Tom-tom egley. This Tom is a local handyman. Had served in the Navy for a year. He received a general discharge. But now, when they look at him a little more five years earlier he had been arrested for assault and battery in Reno, NV for allegedly knocking his wife around. Now, as terrible as that is, it's a far cry from attempting to accost a little girl and maybe, potentially murder. To me, that is a solid lead and a solid suspect, and Tom Egley was questioned by police. He admits absolutely to being in price, UT he even placed himself at the scene where the attempted abduction occurred, even admitted to knowing Loretta later in life. Moms friend Kay and her boyfriend were the ones that set my mom up on a blind date with Tom Egley. From what my aunt told me, she didn't really like him, but she went out and date with him. That's the wild part of this too, the connections only getting hotter by the minute. However, while we might all be going there, it's not enough to charge him with murder. O initially, Egley was arrested for the attempted abduction and the murder, but charges for Loretta's murder were dismissed. What do you think about that? About the case being dismissed? What I think about that. You mean I don't think Anesia knows a lot about cases being dismissed? Well, but I've. I've dismissed. I have dismissed them myself when I didn't think they were quite ready. Well, talk, I I think. I think that's a that's a good point. I can think of 1 in particular that we really believed we had the person. The evidence just wasn't there. Everything led to it being this guy. Well, in my case it had to do with there was some outstanding DNA and until we had that, we just didn't know we're here. Everything is pointing to him, but there's nothing directly inculcating, there's nothing directly saying it was him. It's all these little pieces that they aren't linked enough yet. And I get that because, again, it has to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. And we also only get one chance. So as awful as it is, the stakes are just too high and the penalties too severe on a case like this for it not to have everything that it should have before it proceeds to the system and the seeker. I wonder if investigators even back then thought about the opportunity to have Heidi in another room and bring Tom in to talk to investigators just to see if she recognized his voice. Could that have been an investigative tool? I mean, sure, it could have been an investigative tool, but by itself, what are you going to do with that? I wouldn't want to bring that into court if I even could. And quite honestly, I don't even think they ever could because what are you going to say that a four year old heard a voice? In a police precinct or wherever it was and said that's my mom's killer and that's going to be enough. While she may have been right, there's so many arguments, there's so many ways to poke holes in that that I just can't imagine that ever holding water and quite honestly, nor should it. I mean, could they have used it to then try to see if he, the Tom that they had in the precinct, would then talk? Sure. But then you have to think about, well, is that right to do to a four year old child? And that is always something, you know, prosecutors, law enforcement. We are always so hesitant to involve these young kids anymore than we have to. And we do when we need it. But they've already been through. Heidi had been through so much. Why would you put her in that room unless you absolutely had to? And I think they took the wiser tact by not putting her through that. He was arrested. He did a little bit of time because of grabbing the little girl, but then he was let go. So when he was released. My grandpa seemed to be angry. And then so I was told that he was ran out of town because everybody knew who he was and what he did. After her mom was murdered, I understand that she moved in with her grandparents. And her grandma mom told her that her uncles and aunts were now her brothers and sisters, just to give her a real sense of family, how she belonged within that group of family. And to me, that's so touching and heartbreaking at the same time. After my grandmother passed away, we found a notebook that she had kept of everything that I said, starting from when I went to their house. In that notebook, it says I heard footsteps, I heard Tom. I knew it was TomTom was in the house. Tom killed my mom. I heard his bed. They set Tom free. I hope he doesn't come back and kill me. And I had to make sure all the doors and windows were locked so that Tom couldn't come get me. Got sense of what if what if he came back? What if he came back to get me? So without any significant leads, the case goes cold. The family brushed it aside and they buried it in a sense, and they just really didn't talk about it. I found that if I tried to talk about my mom or I tried to ask questions about my mom, it would just make my grandma cry. It was really painful on her and and I didn't want to be the reason that she was crying, so I just chose not to talk about it. It just seemed like, well, that's just the way it's going to be, you know? You're not going to really know your mom. Why do you think Anna Sigga they they just wanted to just move on and and just realize that it may never be solved. So many people, that's the only way that they can process it. Families of victims of a homicide are part of a club that nobody wants to be a member of. And I've met so many families while they're in my law enforcement career, of course, or in my years reporting on these tragic cases. Everyone's different and you know you try to find a pattern. There's no way to really tell how you're going to react, especially when it's just too painful to deal with it every day. Interestingly, Heidi told me a story that I can really almost visualize what it must have been like for her. She said that at some point, you know, she was in this family that now didn't talk at all about her mom or the murder and she had it just sitting inside of her, but that she happened upon a newspaper clipping about the murder. So I was probably about 8. I found the original newspaper clipping from my mom's murder case. That was it was front page of the newspaper. Yeah, and I took it. And I stashed it away, and I would look back on it, and I'd read through it, I'd study it. I carried that newspaper with me. My whole entire life. Because this was what I knew for sure. That happened to my mom. This was my mom. In this article, this was my mom. She drank up every word of that newspaper article. And what she said to me is because it made it real. And it's really shows to me the two different extremes, if you will, of how this family dealt with their grief. You know, the larger family and Loretta's parents, they really buried it deep inside to trying to put out the fire of grief. But inside of Heidi, I mean, that fire is raging, like it is feeding off every bit of information that she can get her. Hands on and it is just going to go out of control. Unless she finds a way to put it out. You know, there were many, many nights that I would lay in bed and say, OK, you're four years old, there's the door, there's the keyhole, you're four years old. What do you remember? What do you remember? What can you remember? I mean, the fact that Heidi kept that memorialized article with her for so many years leads me to believe that in her mind at some point in her life. She was going to attempt to find someone to help her to solve this murder. Well, in 2009 it was 4th of July weekend and my car was stolen. And so I posted it on Facebook about my car being stolen and a classmate of mine, David Brewer, he posts on there. Too bad you're not closer. I wish I could help. Wait, don't you live in Orange County? And he's like, no, I work for Carbon County Sheriff's Office and I was like, Ding Ding Ding Ding. So in August I made sure to find him and when I found him I went up and I said hey David Freakin Brewer and he just kind of looks at me like. And I said, hey, I'm Heidi Jones because, oh, hey, Heidi, nice to see again after all these years we had actually went to high school together. So I told him that day I said, hey, my mom was killed in 1970 and it's never been solved. Do you think it's something that you could help me out with any like, Oh yeah, yeah, sure. Give me a call on Monday. So I later find out that he's rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses, like, oh, here we go, you know? And so I called him that Monday, and I started off by sending him the original newspaper clipping that I'd carried around with me forever. I thought it was funny that when she walked up to him, he really kind of brushed her aside for the moment. And I totally get that. Like, came out of left field, is enjoying himself at a party, and now all of a sudden is this woman he hasn't seen in, you know, decades. And hey, can you solve my mom's murder? But from everything we know, he did a complete flip and really went after it soon after that. I mean, talk about pressure. Even though he just began his assignment in cold case, this was his first homicide investigation. That's pressure. When David Brewer decided that he was going to take this case on and try to solve Heidi's mom's murder, the first thing he decided to do was to go back and try to locate the case file to determine what forensic evidence was collected, what interviews were done, documents, photographs, diagrams, anything you can use to help him get the first footing to this investigation, only to learn and be super disappointed to find out that that entire file was destroyed. In the basement of the Carbon County Sheriff's Office because they had a flood and boy, that was a bad way to get started. And there was more than that. You know, we talked about that back in 1970 when the medical examiner did Loretta's autopsy that he found evidence of sexual assault. And servant says, Oh well, great, they got DNA. Well, not so fast because it was 1970. I mean, that was years before that we could use DNA to make these identifications. So now they don't have that DNA. They don't have the files. Everything's been destroyed. But Breward, that was not the end of it for him and I thought what he did next was really pretty gutsy. He got on a plane or drove or however he got there, and he went to Colorado and he interviewed Tom Egley. He denied, you know, having any involvement in the case. But Heidi, you know, now a young woman herself, said, I've always felt that this was the right guy my whole life. I've said that Tom did it, Tom. Someone that killed my mom. But now I need you to help me get the evidence. And that is what Sergeant Brewer clearly seemed determined to do. But it wasn't going to be easy for this 1970 murder. After my grandmother passed away, I got all of my mom's belongings. I can my grandma held on to them in her garage. He was pretty crafty. He tried to think outside of the box. Could he go back to the family and try to pull up any of the belongings, something Loretta may have touched to see if there's some way of getting some type of evidence? So I found this stereo cabinet that was in my mom's front room. I had a coffee table that was in the house at the time. She had a beaded curtain from her bedroom into the front room. I gave them that. But right there, Scott, you know, we know that even if they found something, there would be so many hurdles in that, either getting forensic evidence off of it or using it. I mean, if possible and if it still exists, you revisit the crime scene. And as an example, you go to the house, if it's still there, you pull up the wood floors to see if any blood or serological evidence maybe literally fell through the cracks just to kind of attempt to create something to be able to have a lead. In this case, and they looked, I mean, they did everything they could, but unfortunately they didn't get any new evidence. But what he did next is pretty fascinating to me. And even when I think, like, I've seen it all in some shape or form, one of the things that this profession I've always loved is always something new. Because what Brewer did, he got this really outside the box idea, let's go and exhume the body. I mean, decades and decades. I love this part of the story. And interestingly, when he first got the idea. Loretta's family shut that right down. And Heidi said, like, I would let you do it in a heartbeat because they need the family's consent. But my grandmother, Loretta's mom, she is of the belief that once that body is in the ground, it is to stay there. So they didn't do it. But Brewer, he did not give up. Then, in 2016, Heidi's grandmother passed away, and it was up to Heidi to make that call. So then in 2016 David said to me so. What do you think about examining your mom's body? And I told her, give me a shovel, I'll help dig. She was that determined herself that this could be a step in the right direction. And I bet you she would have if she could have. But certainly, as the prosecutor, I'm very thankful she didn't. That brings a whole host of other reasons of family getting involved. But it just shows that this is a young woman that while we might say, wait a second, you're willing to dig your murdered mother's body out of the ground, but for her, as horrible as it may. Down to others for her, it was just trying to get down that road to get closure for her mom. So when we talked about examining the body, we were just hoping that we were going to find DNA. My mom was buried with her class ring and we thought, well, possibly there could be DNA on her class ring. Exhuming a body is a very, very difficult process to get approved, not just from the family, but you know, obviously the courts must agree to it. Time, especially for decades, does damage when someone is buried and it's very difficult to extract the DNA from a body for that long. But if it's a type of wound which could determine cause of death, a broken bone, a gunshot wound, that becomes a little bit more. Doable, so to speak. And in this case, right, I mean, they knew how she died, they knew what happened to her. They were just trying to see if they could link The Who get the answer to who did this. So really, that comes down to DNA. I mean, the clothing she was buried is going to be disintegrated, obviously, and anything that was left with her that isn't metal would be gone. So really, it came down to their hopes of and was really such a long shot, would there be any DNA? As the body came out of the ground, you know you can almost hear it as they are pulling her body out. What else they got was water. My mom was buried under a sprinkler in a wooden casket. So there wasn't much that. So David said well. It doesn't look good. Even though Sergeant Brewer and his team did not get the DNA from that exclamation they've been hoping for, I thought what they did here was if it could be even more crafty. This one almost rises to the level of ingenious because they put the information out there that they were going to exhume the body and when you think about it, it's like, well, why? They already knew the target they had in their sights. They all were looking at Tom and they wanted to make sure that he heard about it. I wanted Tom Egley to start worrying that we were coming after him. I wanted Tom to know that my mom's body had been exhumed and the thought of DNA on her body could scare him. I wanted Tom Egley just to start squirming, that he wasn't getting away with murder. Would he be willing, at this point, to feel like the pressure is growing on him? They're zeroing in on their prime suspect. They spoke to neighbors of his in Colorado, people that they thought still spoke to him from the places in Utah he lived before, to just try to make sure that he heard that they were pulling Loretta's body out of the ground. David said, well tell whoever you need to tell and I said OK, so I. Called my old next door neighbor whose best friend lived in Rocky Ford Co and it was a matter of 15 minutes and she said OK, He knows. And so I called her and I said, what do you mean he knows? Well, he he contacted a friend that said that Tom told her. I'm going to need you to come get my dogs and I'm going to have to go to Utah for a little while. He told the neighbor, basically. I need you to watch my dogs because back in Utah. They're exhuming a body that may implicate me in a crime and I may go away for a long time. And then during a second conversation she had with him, he gave even more details of the crime. He wanted to have sex with her, with my mom, she told him no. Content. It made me feel like ****. He said. So when she came out of the kitchen area, I grabbed her from behind. I stabbed her. Then I had sex with her. But I don't remember slitting her throat. He admitted to the murder to her. Or what he didn't realize at that second meeting. She was recording the conversation for police. I just remember bawling my eyes out through the first time hearing it. To hear the way he said it matter of factly. There was no remorse. I mean, it's in such an unfortunate, horrible motive, but it's a motive that we hear a lot in these sex driven crimes where they're on a mission, these predators, and when they're rebuffed. Sometimes they get violent, and in this case it turns to murder. Hi, Heidi. How are you? I'm great. How are you? Thursday, August 18th, 2016, Thomas Egley was arrested finally, and then he pled guilty to second degree murder. For me, it was the best feeling in the world. Something that I believe my whole entire life that this evil man took my mom away from me. All I wanted was justice. All I wanted was for my mom to be able to rest in peace. All I wanted was for him. Spend his life in behind prison bars. He got to enjoy his life. He got to have children. He got to have, you know, he was able to get married several times and have several children and. My mom lived to be 23 years old. You know, when I had to read my impact statement in the courtroom, it's an indescribable feeling because I finally got to tell the man that killed my mom. After 46 years, I finally got to tell him how he impacted my life, what he took away from me. There's two things that really stood out to me and your impact statement. Which was a couple of them when you talked about your mom and she said. My hero that night. She never screamed or made a sound. She did everything she had to to prevent me from coming out of my room. And I think about that when I was reading it. That no matter what was happening to her, she wanted to make sure she picked up the little girl safe. That's why I felt like I needed to be her hero. And you were. You are. So for me, during this whole process, I had to have hope, and I couldn't ever give up. If there's anybody out there with a cold case, if they hear my story and it gives them a glimpse of a hope, we can have DNA. We didn't have a whole lot. We had a determined detective and a really pushy little girl that wanted her mother's murder solved. So I believe that you've got to have hope. TuneIn next Wednesday, when we'll dissect another new case on anatomy of murder. Anatomy of Murder is an audio Chuck original, A Weinberger media and forseti media production summit. David is executive producer.